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The man who bought gadgets for Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-ryul, a former North Korean colonel, was Kim Jong-il's personal shopper for two decades. He has been living in Austria since defecting in 1994 after faking his own death, and a book about his experiences has just been published. He spoke to the BBC's Europe Today programme.

Kim Jong-ryul
Kim Jong-ryul says he has no regrets about breaking his silence

In 1972, the great dictator decided that henceforth he wanted to drive a Mercedes-Benz Pullman - the biggest one.

So I was assigned to the task.

I knew German and had technical knowledge.

So that was my job for 20 years - providing the cars and all kinds of security gadgets for his bodyguards.

My main operational base in all these years was Vienna.

We could have gone to Germany or Switzerland but we thought Austrians as a nation were neutral and the people are friendly and helpful.

So we chose Vienna. I had a diplomatic passport for many years.

Pistols and furniture

In the mid 1970s North Korea went bankrupt, so sometimes for my purchases I had to bring in $300,000 or $500,000 in cash.

No problem. They never searched me.

We found that Austria was easy to handle. We could purchase embargoed goods here.

We labelled and packaged them and then shipped them from Vienna. That is how it worked.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

Austrian businessmen are very good at that kind of thing.

North Korea always paid 20-30% extra and Austrian firms were quite interested in that.

We used this interest.

We bought all sorts of things - such as Geiger counters, fingerprint readers from America and encrypted telephones for the two dictators [Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-Sung] to talk to each other on.

Also, gold-plated pistols, hunting rifles and furniture and fittings for villas.

Faked death

One reason for my escape was that I knew the real situation in North Korea and could compare it to the freedom of the Western world.

It became clear to me that North Korean policy does not work. It is wrong, so I wanted to get away.

Hatred towards the two dictators was my motivation.

In order to escape, I set up my own death. It took a real "theatre play" to make everyone believe I was dead.

On 18 October 1994 I was "killed" by Slovak gangs. I think it worked and I went undetected until today.

If you get old you start thinking about death and so I thought, do I want to die like this or leave a legacy?

I decided I wanted my last cry of protest to be heard and then die. That is how the book came about.

Now I am known as a traitor, if they find me, they will kill me straight away.




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